During today’s bout of PMQs, the Labour leader criticised David Cameron for his welfare minister Lord Freud’s comments about disabled people and the minimum wage.
At a fringe event during Conservative party conference, Freud was recorded in an audio file passed on to the website PoliticsHome making some controversial remarks about how disabled people are “not worth the full wage”.
Here’s the quote, in response to a question asked by a Tory councillor:
. . . You make a really good point about the disabled. Now I had not thought through, and we have not got a system for, you know, kind of going below the Minimum Wage.
But we do have . . . You know, Universal Credit is really useful for people with the fluctuating conditions who can do some work – go up and down – because they can earn and get . . . and get, you know, bolstered through Universal Credit, and they can move that amount up and down.
Now, there is a small . . . there is a group, and I know exactly who you mean, where actually as you say they’re not worth the full wage and actually I’m going to go and think about that particular issue, whether there is something we can do nationally, and without distorting the whole thing, which actually if someone wants to work for £2 an hour, and it’s working can we actually . . .
Ed Miliband appeared to call for the DWP minister to stand down, telling the PM: “Surely someone holding those views can’t possibly stay in his [Cameron’s] government?”
Clearly ruffled by this emerging story he hadn’t been fully briefed about, Cameron insisted “those are not the views of the government”. He then fell back on the approach he used when referring to the NHS in his conference speech, citing his own experience caring for a disabled child, his late son Ivan. He said he wouldn’t take lectures “from anyone about looking after disabled people”.
Watch the exchange here:
However, this Freudian slip is just a minute example of how generally appalling this government’s attitude has been towards disabled people. The most prominent examples are:
- The inclusion of households containing disabled people in the Bedroom Tax
- The utter failure and injustice of the Atos “fit-to-work” tests, so bad the contract is being terminated early
- The replacement of Disability Living Allowance with Personal Independence Payments trapping a significant number of disabled people without benefits
- Cuts to funding like the Independent Living Fund
- The “mandatory reconsideration” stage and time limit added to appealing against the removal of Employment and Support Allowance
- The Work Programme’s failure to help disabled people gain employment
Sadly, Freud’s comments revealed today should come as no surprise.